Oil Spill - An Uncoordinated Approach Will Lead to Loss of Wildlife.
In light of the recent oil spill off the south coast of Ireland, the Irish Wildlife Trust have contacted various government departments and Local Authorities to find out what the plan of action is to deal with the oil spill if it reaches the Irish coast. Unfortunately after contacting various departments the lines of action are not clearly defined, a very worrying situation indeed.
The Coastguard in the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources believe the oil slick will not come ashore and currently they are monitoring the slick on a daily basis with helicopters. This is not an exact science and could change over time. A question that is harder to answer is; what happens if oil does come ashore? The oil might not come ashore immediately it might take weeks before the effects are seen. The Coastguard indicated Local Authorities are responsible for clean up operations and should have pollution plans in place. However, we know for instance Waterford County Council among others do not have a pollution plan, so what happens next?
The Coastguard have anti-pollution equipment, including bunds, to boom off oils slicks if it gets close to the shore but it is unclear if this is enough. The equipment is located in Dublin and at local sites and is under the charge of the Coastguard Pollution and Salvage manager but if the slick breaks up, it is not clear how many bays could be boomed off simultaneously as there is no published plan to consult.
In the event of oil reaching the shore the first signs of damage the public would see would be tar balls on beaches or oiled birds. In such circumstances we would advise the public report directly to the Coastguard. LoCall no. 1890 44 9900 and to the local County Council.
‘Our coastal region is invaluable for wildlife and humans alike, species such as seals, whales and dolphins, and coastal colonies of sea birds depend on a clean environment to survive,’ commented Padraic Fogarty (IWT Chairperson).
The south of Ireland holds many Special Areas of Conservation such as the Tramore Backstrand, Bannow Bay and Clonakilty Bay to name a few, not mention Special Protection areas for birds like the Saltee Islands 4 kilometres off the coast of Wexford. In this time of economic uncertainty the impact that this spill could have on our fisheries would be disastrous and have a serious impact on the livelihood of many involved in fisheries.
Even if the oil spill does not reach the Irish shores, there is still a serious need for relevant authorities to work together with a coordinated approach involving communities to help protect our beautiful coastal wildlife in the future.
For further information please contact Joanne Pender